The amateur moon rover team - of which I find myself a member - will be demonstrating its prototype Moon Lander and Robot Rover at ESC next week.
Good grief, things certainly move quickly in programmable logic space (where no one can hear you scream). Do you remember my Want to build a moon rover? blog from a few weeks ago? In that blog, I asked if anyone wanted to volunteer to join a team trying to win the Google Lunar X PRIZE, which involves flying a robot rover to the moon, landing it, deploying it, and having it wander around sending back specific data (videos and so forth).
Well, much to my surprise, I soon found that the leader of the team – Brian Beckius – volunteered me! Now I watch a bewildering flurry of email racing across my desktop every day discussing a positive plethora of perplexing topics about which I know nothing. Who knew there was so much to know? (Who knew I knew so little?)
Do you remember the track "Walking on the Moon" by the Police? I once went with a bunch of friends to see them live in Leeds, England. Eeeek Alors! That must be close to 30 years ago now, but it was a fantastic night and I have many stories to tell about it...
... none of which has anything to do with what we were talking about. A week or so ago Brian posted a Video of the Robot Rover on YouTube. This shows the then-current prototype meandering around his workshop. You have to turn your computer's sound on when watching this, because Brian added a backing music track that really makes you think how lonely it's going to be for our poor little rover when it's a quarter of a million miles away from home.
A couple of days ago Brian sent an image of the FPGA-based "Prototype Brain Board" being attached (the FPGA design was created by team member Robert Dennard, who is Director of FPGA Design at FPGA Masters, which is a division of JADTech Corp).
The next thing I heard, the solar panels had arrived and were being attached as seen below. Meanwhile, other members are working on the vision system and stuff. And, of course, there's the Moon Lander itself, whose job it will be to take the Rover out of moon orbit and land it safely on the surface.
I tell you, it's all go around here! The exciting thing is that the team are going to be displaying the prototype lander and rover at the Embedded Systems Conference – ESC 2008 in Silicon Valley next week (April 14-18) as I pen these words. They will be telling anyone who is interested what they are doing, and hoping to attract both volunteers and sponsors. I'm going to be bouncing around at the show also, and I cannot wait to see the rover "in the flesh" as it were. This is very, very exciting!!!
Questions? Comments? Feel free to email me – Clive "Max" Maxfield – at firstname.lastname@example.org). And, of course, if you haven't already done so, don't forget to Sign Up for our weekly Programmable Logic DesignLine Newsletter.